Just a week ago, it was announced that actor Peter Capaldi would be taking over the iconic lead role of the popular British sci-fi series 'Doctor Who.' Reaction to Capaldi's casting was almost overwhelmingly positive, though some fans (particularly those who don't live in the UK) might have been asking, 'Who?' That's because they haven't seen (or probably even heard of) the series that made Capaldi's career. I'm talking about 'The Thick of It,' one of the most brilliantly satirical television shows in recent memory.
'The Thick of It,' which ran for four series between 2005 and 2012, follows members of a department of British government (the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship) as they struggle to say on the good side of the press -- a task made all the more difficult by their complete incompetence. They're all wrangled into place by spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi), who devises Machiavellian schemes to help them hide their mistakes.
It's a bitingly clever show, delivered with a healthy amount of vitriol both toward idiots in government and toward the capricious press which hypocritically attempts to apply morality to the system it perpetuates. That might sound a bit pretentious, but that's only on paper. In practice, the series is an almost farcical sequence of people in power making mistakes and insulting each other in endlessly creative ways.
Though the entire cast is top-notch -- Chris Addison as morally bankrupt up-and-comer Ollie Reeder is a standout -- there's no real question that the star of the show is Capaldi, who delivers one of the most giddily angry performances of all time. His dialogue consists largely of some of the most creatively assembled profanities you could ever hope to find on television -- and they're all far too clever for the word 'gratuitous' to even be considered. But Capaldi's Tucker isn't all fire and brimstone -- as the series continues, we discover more and more layers of an increasingly three-dimensional character, and Capaldi makes what could have easily been a cartoonish character into a rewardingly complex man.
The same, too, can be said of 'The Thick of It' as a whole. Though the show starts off as a very clear comedy, the show's four-series run sees the tone begin to subtly change. By the end of the fourth season, it's almost become a drama with jokes; though 'The Thick of It' wants us to laugh at these characters, it also wants to remind us of the sobering reality the show reflects -- an absurd one, but with consequences nonetheless.
The show was created and written by Armando Iannucci, who American audiences might know as the creator of HBO's 'Veep', a series which examines similar themes except within the constructs of American government. (You can check out TVRage's interview with Iannucci from last year here.)
If you would like to watch 'The Thick of It' (and I highly recommend it), all four series are available to stream for free over at Hulu.